Hawara, Biahmu, and Arsinoe: With Thirty Plates (Classic Reprint)by W. M. Flinders Petrie
I. On applying last autumn to M. Grebaut to have some place named for my excavations, he decided on allotting the Fayum province to me; it was not being worked by any one else - the department of antiquities not having touched it for quarter of a century, - and it was a district containing many
Excerpt from Hawara, Biahmu, and Arsinoe: With Thirty Plates
I. On applying last autumn to M. Grebaut to have some place named for my excavations, he decided on allotting the Fayum province to me; it was not being worked by any one else - the department of antiquities not having touched it for quarter of a century, - and it was a district containing many interesting problems. After copying plans and making notes in England, to make certain of what was already known, I arrived in due course at Medinet el Fayum, and settled on the side of the great mounds, hard by a mill, once more living free in a tent. The place is pleasant enough in the winter; but when the khamsin winds blow, the clouds of dust arise like a thick brown fog. I soon got together some men from the village of Menshiet Abdallah at the end of the mounds; and they went with me afterwards to Hawara.
Medinet el Fayum is the modern town which represents the ancient Arsinoe, so named by Ptolemy Philadelphos in honour of his sister-wife; it lies at the extreme south of the old site, which covers a space of over a mile long and half a mile wide, a vast wilderness of mounds strewn with pottery. At the opposite end of the ruins, toward the north, is the great temple enclosure of the old Egyptian town. Before its name of Arsinoe, the city had obtained the name of Crocodilopolis, from the worship of the sacred crocodiles maintained there; and still earlier it was known as Shed - meaning, apparently, that which is saved, cut out, delivered, or extracted, referring to the district being reclaimed from the great lake. The whole province was known as Ta-shc, "the land of the lake;" and, whatever may have been the mistakes of historians about Lake Moiris, there is no doubt that the lake was the main feature of the district.
So many opinions have been broached about Lake Moiris that an account of antiquities in the Fayum without mentioning it would seem impossible. So, although my work has not been in that line, yet it will be as well to state what seems to be the truth about it, in order that some collateral questions should be the better understood. For the following view of the use of the great dyke I am indebted to Colonel Ross, R.E., C.B., who has professionally considered the subject. The Fayum is one of the oases of the Libyan desert, lying close to the Nile valley; and the intervening ground is low enough for the Nile to pour into the basin. The fall from the Nile valley to where the channel widens out into the Fayum is about 12 feet; and the water flows over the province by canals and ravines, worn through the rock and its superincumbent mud, until the streams finally collect in the Briket Kurun at more than 200 feet below the Nile level, and, indeed, 130 feet below the sea. The present area of cultivation is about 20 miles in each direction; but the whole basin, geographically speaking, is about 40 miles across on an average. This does not include the secondary basin of the Wadi Rayan to the south, which never had any connection with the Fayum basin in historic times, the ground rising over 100 feet above Nile level between the two depressions.
In prehistoric times the Nile valley was full of water to a far greater depth than at present, probably 100 or 200 feet deep of water filled it right across. A river of such a size seems almost incredible, and we naturally should suppose it to have been an estuary; but this must not be too hastily assumed, as there arc evidences over the whole country of an enormous rainfall, which ploughed up the cliffs with great ravines; while the bare bed of the old Nile in the eastern desert at Silsileh is some miles in width, showing what a large volume of water has filled it; a lesser stream would have cut down a deep channel in the old bed, and would never have filled that and topped the rocks to force its present cut. This prehistoric high Nile is not, however, pre-human, as I found a palæolithic flint high u.
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